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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Daily Log

Replied to a twitter thread. It seems to have started with Dave Weigel, who wrote:

To understand Bidenmentum, you've got to have some of the conversations I had yesterday: Middle-aged women explaining that 2016 showed that voters won't elect a female president, so they've got to be strategic.

Kathleen Geier wrote:

This is so depressing. Countries like Argentina, Chile, Liberia, and Taiwan have elected women presidents. Are those countries less sexist than the US? Just because Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate who ran a lousy campaign doesn't mean another woman can't win.

I responded:

Only reason I can think of why significant numbers of voters reject any woman candidate is that the US has been on a constant war footing since 1948, and that's seeped deep into our pores; ironically, overcompensating hawks like H Clinton scare more voters than they win over.


Wrote this up as a proposal for Mike and Ram:

Been kicking around various ideas, and thought this one might be worth sharing. I've spent a lot of time thinking about a political book, built around the idea that US history breaks neatly into four eras: 1800-1860, 1860-1932, 1932-1980, and 1980-2020. Each begins with a legendary president (Jefferson, Lincoln, FD Roosevelt, Reagan) and ends with a tragically inept one-termer (Buchanan, Hoover, Carter, and Trump). (In this regard, one could also cite 1788-1800, Washington-to-Adams, but that doesn't seem quite long enough to count. Each era was dominated by a single political party, although each had two minor breaks for presidents from the other party -- in three cases two for two terms each (Cleveland and Wilson, Eisenhower and Nixon, Clinton and Obama); in the 1800-1860 period the Whig party managed to win two elections with former generals (Harrison and Taylor), but they both died in office and were succeeded by exceptionally unpopular VPs (Tyler and Fillmore). Within each era, not only was one party dominant, but the other party tended to mimic the dominant party: most obviously, how Eisenhower and Nixon supported and extended New Deal reforms, while Clinton and Obama willingly gave ground to the pro-market, small-government Republican agenda. (The earlier eras are more mixed, partly because the dominant party was itself evolving. Cleveland, for instance, was more conservative than the most pro-business Republican of his day, while Wilson was relatively progressive, admittedly with certain blinders, most notoriously race.)

The Reagan-to-Trump era differs from the others in several respects. The first three eras started with major shifts to the left: the spread of democracy under Jefferson and Jackson; the end of slavery with Lincoln; Roosevelt's New Deal. Reagan led a backlash, aimed at making Americans less equal, at reducing democracy, and at limiting the rights of most Americans. Although Republicans captured the levers of power and dominated the public agenda, their program was never very popular, their winning margins (aside from Reagan's two elections) slim (twice, at least by actual votes, negative). The eras subdivide, this one breaking down into three waves as presidential power (Reagan, Bush, Trump) did their damage, separated by breaks which allowed the economy to recover (from the first Bush recession of 1992 and the much larger Bush recession of 2008), and the Republicans to recharge (taking control of Congress in 1994 and 2010, kneecapping the Democrats from making changes).

My original idea was to start with this framework, then expand on how Democrats should view 2020 as an epochal, era-ending election, an opportunity not just to reverse the Reagan-to-Trump tide but to build a new paradigm for decades to come. A lot of good things fall out of that perspective. I'm thinking now that I should dial back the ambition from book to essay length, crank out the essay, try to get it published somewhere respectable, and see if there's any further demand. But along the way, I thought of how either of you might help, then came up with something slightly different. That is to look at the Reagan-to-Trump era reactionary movement in the broader context of fascist movements around the world. Also, to lessen my load, and give this a better chance of actually happening, I propose that you two do it as a graphic book (Mike writing, Ram illustrating). Maybe I can contribute some rough ideas, a website, some online notes, like that.

The immediate trigger for the thought was reading Benjamin Carter Hett's "The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic." Some descriptions of Hitler can easily be recast for Trump. Some cannot, but the essential point is that both are public faces of crazed mass movements which were handed power by arch-conservative power brokers (the Kochs and Mercers as much as Hindenburg and his business backers), in both cases understanding that their privileges can only be sustained if they can hide behind a political movement preoccupied with hating others. It's taken some countries much longer to mount a successful fascist movement than others. Germany in the 1920s could look back on its humiliating defeat in the Great War and rail against both internal traitors and the insults of reparations, while imagining that the extraordinary will of someone like Hitler could triumph, restoring Germany's greatness among nations. Fascists could build on lesser grounds, as Mussolini did in Italy. Even in England and France, small groups felt cheated and spawned lesser fascist movements.

It was even harder to get a fascist movement started in the US, but in the 1930s there was a clique of conservatives who harbored the fantasy, and they started to build as the Cold War lent their anti-union politics an air of respectability. As Robert Paxton argues in "The Anatomy of Fascism," fascists start out as the public face of oligarchic powers frustrated by having to deal with democracy. That turns out to be a pretty apt description of Trump. And it's worth noting that GW Bush made his own fortune working as the front man for the oil magnates who owned the Texas Rangers. Also that as Reagan's acting career washed up, he made his living as a shill for General Electric (see Kim Phillips-Fein's "Invisible Hands" for more on GE's hardcore opposition to FDR's New Deal). The difference between Hitler and America's leading fascists is that Hitler moved beyond being a front, seizing power and pursuing his own delusions, driving Germany to utter ruin, whereas the damage wrought by the American troika have yet to rebound against their masters.

Thinking along these lines, I was reminded of Marx's quip about Napoleon III in 1848: "history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce." That seems about right for contrasting Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, although one might not want to tempt fate given that the full bill for electing Trump has yet to be paid. Also one doesn't want to make light of the many terrible things that Trump as already done. Still, I see no reason why we can't present him as a buffoon as well as vile. Indeed, that's likely to be where the graphic form is most effective. Nor should we refrain from treating Hitler and Mussolini as farcical characters. Maybe if people had realized then how ridiculous they were, they might have been stopped before they could devastate so much of the world. Stopping Trump is still an option.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive.

Music: current count 31440 [31400] rated (+40), 255 [256] unrated (-1).

Last Monday of the month, so time to unveil April Streamnotes, including this week's subset below. Five Mondays this month, so the totals are up handsomely from the two previous four-Monday months. Weekly rated count is up a bit, but that's partly because I found five records I failed to record grades for recently. Some of those bookkeeping errors probably caused me to log 29-album weeks (four so far this year) instead of 30, long my standard for a productive week.

Worth noting that all three of this week's new non-jazz A-list albums here also placed high on Phil Overeem's latest list (numbers 4, 6, and 20). For what little it's worth, I wrote those before seeing Overeem's list, but not before Dan Weiss praised them on Facebook (although I think I first heard of Billie Eilish from Christgau).

Those tips help make up for the frustration of declining awareness I've been feeling. Although I still keep a music tracking file, I've stopped making any systematic effort to find and list prospects, leaving me with little concept of what to search out next. As a result, I veer off on arbitrary tangents, as when I found a piece called A Guide to Drexciya's Futuristic Electro. I really liked Drexciya's Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller, Vol. I back in 2012, so that seemed worth pursuing. But it certainly fell far short of a plan.

Finally, a link that makes more sense to list here than in yesterday's Weekend Roundup: Rachel Syme: Vince Aletti's Obsessive Collection of Seminal Fashion Magazinse. Vince was one of the first people I met when I moved to New York City in 1977, so it's good to see him again, even older, as we all are.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Kevin Abstract: Arizona Baby (2019, Question Everything/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Juan Álamo & Marimjazzia: Ruta Panoramica (2016 [2019], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Anderson .Paak: Ventura (2019, Aftermath/12 Tone Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Brittany Anjou: Enamigo Reciprokataj (2015-16 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Seamus Blake: Guardians of the Heart Machine (2017 [2019], Whirlwind): [r]: B+(***)
  • Club D'Elf: Night Sparkles (Live) (2011 [2019], Face Pelt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Control Top: Covert Contracts (2019, Get Better): [r]: A-
  • Cooper Moore/Stephen Gauci: Studio Sessions Vol. 1 (2019, Gaucimusic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ronnie Cuber: Straight Street (2010 [2019], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Billy Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019, Darkroom/Interscope): [r]: A-
  • Anat Fort Trio: Colour (2019, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Four: There You Go Thinking Again (2018 [2019], Jazz Hang): [cd]: B
  • Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Epistrophy (2016 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Stephen Gauci/Sandy Ewan/Adam Lane/Kevin Shea: Live at the Bushwick Series (2019, Gaucimusic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Lizzo: Cuz I Love You (2019, Nice Life/Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Lisa Maxwell's Jazz Orchestra: Shiny! (2018 [2019], Uncle Marvin Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bennett Paster: Indivisible (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Rathbun: Character Study (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Reed: Everybody Gets the Blues (2019, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steph Richards: Take the Neon Lights (2019, Birdwatcher): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Scott: In Search of Hipness (2018 [2019], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
  • Swindle: No More Normal (2019, Brownswood): [r]: B-
  • Trapper Keaper: Meets Tim Berne & Aurora Nealand (2019, Ears & Eyes/Caligola): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Cory Weeds Quintet: Live at Frankie's Jazz Club (2019, Cellar Live): [r]: B+(*)
  • Walt Weiskopf European Quartet: Worldwide (2019, Orenda): [cd]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Afro-Blue Persuasion: Live at Haight Levels: Volume One (1967 [2019], Tramp): [r]: B+(**)
  • Afro-Blue Persuasion: Live at Haight Levels: Volume Two (1967 [2019], Tramp): [r]: B+(**)
  • Elecktrokids: Elektroworld (1995 [2019], Clone Classic Cuts): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mark Turner/Gary Foster: Mark Turner Meets Gary Foster (2003 [2019], Capri, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Bill Cunliffe/Gary Foster: It's About Love (2003, Torii): [r]: B+(***)
  • Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller III (1992-97 [2013], Clone Classic Cuts): [bc]: A-
  • Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller IV (1992-97 [2013], Clone Classic Cubs): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Drexciya: Neptune's Lair (1999, Tresor): [r]: B+(***)
  • Drexciya: Grava 4 (2002, Clone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billie Eilish: Don't Smile at Me (2017, Darkroom/Interscope, EP): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Greg Abate with the Tim Ray Trio: Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z (Whaling City Sound)
  • Brittany Anjou: Enamigo Reciprokataj (Origin)
  • Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Combo: Chez Nous (Summit): June 7
  • Satoko Fujii: Stone (Libra): June 7
  • The Invisible Party: Shumankind (Chant -18)
  • Peter Jensen & DR Big Band: Stand on Your Feet and Fight: Voices of the Danish West Indies (ILK)
  • Ellynne Rey: The Birdsong Project (self-released): May 1
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Side Three: New Work (Edgetone)
  • The Richard Shulman Trio: Waltzing out of Town (RichHeart Music): May 11
  • Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: The Rhythm of Invention (Patois): June 7
  • Walt Weiskopf European Quartet: Worldwide (Orenda): May 3

Purchases:

  • Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (2018 [2019], Atlantic) [A-]
  • Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (2019, Aimless) [A-]

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Started early and still running late. Having recently read Benjamin Carter Hett's The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic, I woke up this morning with the idea of writing something about Trump, Republicans, and Fascism for today's introduction. Never got close to that. Hett's book is pretty straight history, but you can find a page here or there where you could easily gloss in Trump's name for Hitler's. Then you move onto other pages where Trump fails any comparison, usually by being too dumb or too lazy. There are also big differences between the Nazis and the Republicans, although differences on race, foreigners, unions, and military muscle are insignificant. The biggest one is that the Nazis actually had their own goon squad that could go out and physically attack their suspected enemies, whereas Republicans only wish they could do that. Still, the key point about Germany in 1932 was supposedly sober conservatives were so desperate to squash the left -- indeed, any trace of popular government, of democracy -- that they were willing to hand power over to a psycho like Hitler and his vicious gang of followers. Republicans seem happy to do the same thing here in America, for the same reasons, and with the same obliviousness to consequences.

I should note somewhere that former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) died last week. Back in the 1980s he was the model of how a Republican politician could straddle moderate urban politics (he was mayor of Indianapolis) and the Reagan reaction, which for a time helped make the latter seem more innocuous and palatable. He was finally devoured by the right, purged in a primary by an opponent so extreme that the Democrats were able to (temporarily) pick up the seat. I never felt any particular fondness for Lugar, but I could understand why people respected him. Even his breed of Republican is now a thing of the past.

Also noted that historian David Brion Davis has died. His 1967 book The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture greatly affected the way pretty much everyone understood the history of slavery in the Americas. I've often thought I should check out his later books, especially the ones that extended his study into the 19th century. I learned of his death from a cranky Corey Robin note, which I decided not to bother with below. Here's a more useful (and generous) obituary.


Anyhow, this is what the week has to show for itself:

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Daily Log

Fixed dinner for four last night. Wasn't planned, except iasmuch as I bought a pound of hamburger thinking I'd make meatloaf, then postponed it after my wife stuck the meat in the freezer. I already had a pound of ground lamb there, and keep everything else I would need as staples. So when I announced I'd fix it Friday, my wife invited a couple of friends over. I don't normally make any extra dishes for just the two of us -- the meatloaf baked with some root vegetables, so makes a nice comforty meal-for-two, with leftovers for sandwiches. But with two more guests, I figured I should add a little something. I decided to limit myself to things I could fix without shopping. Came up with this:

  • Meatloaf (beef + lamb, with onion, green bell pepper, garlic, a can of tomatoes, two eggs, parmesan cheese, some spices) with coarsely chopped root vegetables (yukon potatoes, parsnip, a sweet potato).
  • Baked beans topped with bacon (two cans of Van Camps, flavored with mustard, catsup, worcestshire, brown sugar, maple syrup, also threw in a bit of Chinese bean sauce).
  • Cut green beans (a frozen bag), microwaved and added to a skillet with butter, shallots (two chopped), ham (two slices, diced fine), roasted garlic, a chopped scallion, sliced almonds, and a splash of sesame oil. (Thought about adding parmesan, but don't think I did.)
  • Roaster butternut squash soup.
  • Chocolate mousse for dessert.

I made the soup several days before. I thought it was pretty tasty, but I mostly make soups for Laura, and she didn't seem much interested in it. The other choices were mostly dictated by trying to get rid of things from the freezer and the pantry. I first tried another bag of cut green beans, but after I screwed up and boiled the pot dry, I decided they weren't worth saving, and grabbed another bag. The canned beans were old too: we threw out several ancient cans last week, so that got me thinking I should use what I had left. The bacon was OK, but running out of time. I meant to include carrots, but had to throw the few I had out (as well as most of the rest of the produce drawer).

The first two were old family recipes (the beans from my first wife) that I had fiddled with over the years. The green beans was pure improv. Earlier I had the idea of making creamed corn, but gave that up when I only found small packages of corn in the freezer. (The recipe, of course, frowned on using frozen corn, but I think I've used it before.) The cream got me to thinking about chocolate mousse, as one of the few really good desserts I could whip up in just a few minutes.

The chocolate mousse was a last-minute idea, started just before the guests arrived. I had several opened packages of chocolate in the fridge, and found 4 oz. of 70% bittersweet there. I had a guest whisk the melted chocolate/butter and egg yolks, and they wound up lumpy. I didn't pay enough attention to whipping either the egg yolks or the cream, and both came out less airy than ideal. The result was kind of lumpy and soupy, although the taste was there. It's just that you had to chew it to break the lumps open, but that turned out to be surprisingly satisfying.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31400 [31371] rated (+29), 256 [252] unrated (+4).

Seems like pretty much everything is a struggle these days. My most common complaint is that I'm getting sick and tired of not being able to do things right. A typical example was trying to repair a screen door lock. A nylon washer disappeared, and has proven impossible to replace. I bought some things I thought I might be able to use, then lost them. Bought some more, and turned out they were too thick, and hole was too small. I tried drilling out the hole, and destroyed the washer. Finally reassembled the door handle without the washer. The set screw is hard to get a grip on. It will no doubt fall apart again in a matter of days, at best a couple weeks. I have a bunch of other things that are falling apart, many because I didn't do a good enough job building them in the first place.

On the other hand, I have gotten a few things done. The new pantry shelf unit is painted and bolted in place, although we haven't really put it to use yet. That's waiting a second pantry improvement. I built a rather neat storage unit, then screwed up hanging the door so it never closed correctly (or at least easily). It finally dawned on me that if I could shave a quarter inch off the bottom surface, it should close without having to change the hinges. All that's left to do there is to rehang the door, and see whether the theory worked. Tomorrow.

At least I finally got my computers moved, making my workspace much more comfortable. Still haven't done the next step, which is to set up virtual web servers on the secondary machine, so I can start redesigning the Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell websites. I should at least know what I'm doing there.

Meanwhile, another routine week of music discoveries. Hard part for me is deciding what to search out. This seems like a typical week with two weeks of Christgau picks, further search down Phil Overeem's list, and the first Michael Tatum Downloader's Diary in quite a while. Unfortunately, I found myself coming up short with their well-considered picks. Instead, I went with the new Chemical Brothers album (I think someone on the Expert Witness Facebook group raved about it, but don't recall who), and a 1979 jazz album reissue that probably showed up in a Bandcamp Daily list (which I started using a couple weeks back when I couldn't play Napster).

Also, two rare regrades to from B+(***) to A-, originally reviewed by streaming but given a few more changes after CDs arrived. People shouldn't get the idea that all they have to do to get higher grades is to send me CDs, but they do help in cases where I've held a grade back due to some minor reservations.

April Streamnotes should be released with next Music Week, on April 29. Currently have 113 records in the draft file, so I'll probably wind up with 140-150.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (2018 [2019], Pi, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Chemical Brothers: No Geography (2019, Virgin EMI): [r]: A-
  • Martin Frawley: Undone at 31 (2019, Merge): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ahmed Ag Kaedy: Akaline Kidal (2019, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(**)
  • Salif Keita: Un Autre Blanc (2018 [2019], Naive): [r]: B+(***)
  • Khalid: Suncity (2018, RCA, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Khalid: Free Spirit (2019, RCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Larry Koonse: New Jazz Standards Vol. 4 (2019, Summit): [cd]: B
  • Joachim Kühn: Melodic Ornette Coleman: Piano Works XIII (2018 [2019], ACT): [r]: B+(*)
  • Russ Lossing: Changes (2018 [2019], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Russ Lossing: Motian Music (2019, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Reba McEntire: Stronger Than the Truth (2019, Big Machine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sam Ospovat: Ride Angles (2018 [2019], Skirl): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Hama Sankare: Ballébé: Calling All Africans (2018, Clermont Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hama Sankare: Niafunke (2019, Clermont Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Silk Road Assassins: State of Ruin (2019, Planet Mu): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marcos Silva: Brasil: From Head to Toe (2019, Green Egg): [cd]: B
  • Solange: When I Get Home (2019, Saint/Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Spellling: Mazy Fly (2019, Sacred Bones): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sunflower Bean: King of the Dudes (2019, Mom + Pop, EP): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Infinite Spirit Music: Live Without Fear (1979 [2019], Jazzman): [r]: A-
  • Live at Raul's (1979 [2019], Steady Boy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Onda De Amor: Synthesized Brazilian Hits That Never Were (1984-94) (1984-94 [2018], Soundway): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Weaponize Your Sound (2019, Optimo Music): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Salif Keita: The Mansa of Mali: A Retrospective (1978-94 [1994], Mango): [r]: B+(***)
  • Russ Lossing: Dreamer (2000, Double Time): [r]: B+(**)
  • Russ Lossing/Ed Schuller/Paul Motian: As It Grows (2002 [2004], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Russ Lossing: All Things Arise (2005 [2006], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Timosaurus: I Love You More Than Yesterday (2011, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Hiljaisuus: Kuzu (2017 [2019], Astral Spirits/Aerophonic): [cd]: was: B+(***) A-
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (2018 [2019], ESP-Disk): [cd]: was B+(***) A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Campfire Flies: Sparks Like Litle Stars (OverPop Music)
  • Mark Dresser Seven: Ain't Nothing but a Cyber Coup & You (Clean Feed): May 10
  • Four: There You Go Thinking Again (Jazz Hang)
  • Bennett Paster: Indivisible (self-released): May 3
  • Trapper Keeper: Meets Tim Berne & Aurora Nealand (Ears & Eyes)
  • Mark Turner/Gary Foster: Mark Turner Meets Gary Foster (Capri): May 17
  • The United States Air Force Band: The Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Radio Broadcasts (self-released)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Let's start off with a range of reactions to the release (with extensive redactions) of the final report of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller: